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Penn State Sawyer Seminar | City of Possibilities: Aspiration and Transgression in Mughal Banaras
September 30, 2021 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Sept 30 – Oct 1: Sacred Cities: Mobility and Transmission
Thursday, September 30 at 6:00 pm: Lecture by Rosalind O’Hanlon, “City of Possibilities: Aspiration and Transgression in Mughal Banaras”
Location: Zoom. Registration required. https://psu.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_p3tDAam0Q7yhKkb6gK-zoA
(Contact Diana Malcom email@example.com with any questions)
Through a carefully structured program of lectures, colloquia, workshops, exhibitions, and performances, the Sawyer Seminar will initiate a timely comparative research program on early modern architecture and urbanism as they were inflected by concerns about contagion.
By focusing on cities of the early modern period, the seminar highlights the consequences of global exchange and growing interconnectedness for the built environment. Until recently, study of the history of architecture and urbanism tended toward geographic specificity. This is understandable to some extent. The particular political, cultural, commercial, and topographical character of a city demands specialist understanding of distinct materials and construction techniques along with specific languages and historical knowledge. Yet, geographically circumscribed study of cities and their architecture risks imposing an ahistorical hermeticism to scholarship—especially when applied to the early modern period. Early modern cities were connected through trade, migration, conquest, evangelism, curiosity, and colonization. These points of contact suggest many paths of entry to comparative study related to early modern cities and architectures of transmission, contagion, and containment.
And, as COVID-19 has illustrated all too clearly, the history of modern pandemics is a history of urbanism. As densely populated centers of trade, cities are inevitably implicated in the spread and containment of infectious diseases. Interactions among people, animals, and goods in cities are frequently the nexus from which infectious disease histories emerge. Crucial for these histories is the built environment itself. Town squares, hospitals, jails, schools, bridges and sewers, palaces, cemeteries, mosques, temples, and churches: sites like these shape epidemics as they record (and disguise) the social and cultural consequences of contagion.